Jane Pope Geske
b. Sutton, Nebraska, Dec 27, 1918;
d. Lincoln, Nebraska, Sep 8, 1999.
Jane Geske began her life at the Nebraska Public Library Commission as a consultant in 1960 as Jane Pope. Her first assignment as LSCA consultant was in McCook. She was appointed librarian at the South Central Regional Library in Holdrege in 1963.
She worked with the Lower Sandhills Regional Library on the presentation of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award at Thedford in 1965. Ralph Moody expresses his delight at being the speaker in a letter to Geske dated 1965.
Miss Pope met Norman Geske at an art exhibit she was arranging for the library in Holdrege. Geske was the director of the Sheldon Art Gallery. A mutual attraction led to their marriage in 1968.
She served as consultant until 1969 when she became Interim Executive Secretary of the Nebraska Public Library Commission on July 1 at the retirement of Louise Nixon. In accepting the position from the Commissioners she insisted on their adding "interim" to it. In 1973 she became the
Director of the Nebraska Library Commission. She held this position until 1976 when she resigned.
The Nebraska Library Association Quarterly (NLAQ, v.7, #2 Summer 1976,pp. 29-32) interviewed her to get her view of the Commission's accomplishments and the changing status of library service during her years with the Commission. When asked why she was resigning, she "cited her belief that directors of state libraries should not serve an indefinite term."
To understand the scope of activities that Geske was part of, one only has to go back and read the history of the Commission during the 60s and 70s. Jane considered her
role as "primarily altering and refining the initial plan of coordination." (NLAQ, ibid).
Among the many projects she nurtured are centralized processing, major federal funding projects, development of regional library service and networks, the Griggsville Wild Bird Society's state bird project, the abandonment of the Commission's traditional role of collection building, increased funding for libraries, and improved communication systems between the libraries and the Commission to mention only a few.
Geske was active in many arenas. She worked at many libraries throughout her career. She belonged to numerous organizations including being a founding member and president of the Friends of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries and Nebraska Heritage Association. She was a founding member of the Nebraska Center for the Book. She served as president of the Nebraska Library Association. She was a bookseller and life-long book lover. Her connection to the world of art is found in her membership and presidency of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Art Association.
When NLAQ asked about her future she confirmed that she wanted to "keep her hand in" library activity. She wanted something with less pressure. "Grinning she added that she
'wanted to have her cake and eat it, too.'" Her outlook for the future was one of optimism saying,
"[I'm] very positive about the role of the library - any library - especially the small public library, and feel that it can achieve its proper place in any cultural, technological, or educational developments of today and tomorrow, but only if the staffs and the trustees see this clearly. Too often we become involved with job routines and consider these the end instead of just the means." (NLAQ, ibid)
Among the awards she received in her lifetime were the Meritorious Service Award from the Nebraska Library Association and the Mayor's Arts Award. Two awards were presented in her honor: Jane Geske Scholarship - a one-time award to a Nebraska student entering the third year of the Emporia State University graduate library and information science program in Nebraska, and the Jane Geske Award presented by the Nebraska Center for the Book on an annual basis to an organization, business, library, school, association or other group which made an exceptional contribution to literacy, books, reading, libraries or Nebraska literature.
Many friends, peers and colleagues honored her on February 28, 1992 for her contribution to the well being of libraries of Nebraska. The celebration was held at the Lincoln University Club with testimonials and a poem written for her by Ted Kooser.
During the last months of her life, she was still offering encouragement and bits of information to those of us who were working on this centennial history of the Commission. True to form, she was concerned with the programs and services, and not about her role in them.
Jane Geske died September 7, 1999 in Lincoln, Nebraska. A memorial service was held October 11, 1999 at the Shelden Art Gallery.
Files of the Nebraska Library Commission Archives
Obituary: Lincoln Journal Star, Sept 10, 1999